Sunday, 28 October 2007

The 'Scale of Training'

I read a very useful summary of Scale of Training made by the three German Championship judges Uwe Mechlem, Dr. Dieter Schule and Katrina Wust. It outlines the use of The Scale of Training by dressage judges and I made a little summary of that summary below.

1. RHYTHM
i.e. clear beat and regularity in the three basic paces

Walk - need a clear four beat; "V" position of the lateral pairs of legs must be clearly recognisable.

Mistakes: loss of rhythm
- one lateral pair of legs incline more and more towards being parallel, ultimately becoming an amble.
- between a correct four beat and an almost lateral two-beat many transitional phases are possible.
"short/long" steps are also a loss of rhythm.

Trot - two beat, the legs move in diagonal pairs simultaneously, with a moment of suspension in between.
Mistakes: loss of rhythm
- lameness
- unevennes
- short loss of balance (by asking too much; as a lack of suppleness)

Canter - jumping pace which must be in clear three beat with a moment of suspension after three beats.

Mistakes: loss of rhythm
- "rolling" canter with no moment of suspension
- if in the diagonal phase the foreleg touches the ground before the diagonal hind leg does, the horse shows a four beat which normally also results in a downhill-tendency by the horse.

2. SUPPLENESS
The horse must move without any kind of tension in all three basic paces. Checks as to whether a horse is supple and relaxed?
- Poll/neck: elastic, flexible to both sides
- Back: swinging, not carried too high or too low, not swishing, not crooked.
- Tail: swinging, not carried too high or too low, not swishing, not crooked.
- Joints: supple, smooth steps, you hardly hear the horse move.
- Mouth: active mouth with foam, chewing the bit
- Ears, eyes, face: does the horse look a happy athlete?

Mistakes:
- stiff poll and neck
- ears back angrily, very unhappy face
- permanently grinding teeth
- back not really swinging and possibly swishing tail
- nervous/tense/resistant

3. CONTACT
The correct contact is a steady but light connection between the rider's hand and the mouth of the horse which can only be achieved if the horse is really relaxed and supple.

Checks for the correct contact:
- the horse must accept the bit and chew confidentially
- he must always follow the rider's hands
- supple poll; noseline should never be behind the vertical
- the contact should be steady but nevertheless light.

Mistakes:
- open mouth, dead mouth, no acceptance of the bridle
- tongue above the bit, drawn up, slightly visible
- tongue clearly hanging out on one side
- horse is not accepting the bit, is behind/above or against the bit
- noseline behind the vertical, neck overbent (tight and/or deep)
- unsteady neck, tossing up and down

4.IMPULSION
Impulsion is the transition of the energy, generated from the hindlegs of the horse, through an elastic and swinging back, into an athletic powerful movement with clear uphill tendency.
- in extensions the tempo should not change; only the steps and strides should gain more groundcover.
- in collected movements impulsion is needed for more elasticity, suspension and cadence.
- impulsion is only required in trot and canter, whereas the walk only needs activity and ground cover.
- the correct impulsion can only be developed if the three previous steps of the 'Scale of Training' are correctly fulfilled.

Mistakes:
- horse looses cadence
- drags hindlegs/nearly slow motion, incorrect "passage" tendencies
- the correct impulsion can only be developed if the three previous steps of the "Scale of Training" are correctly fulfilled.

5. STRAIGHTNESS/BEND
Straightness is necessary to enable the horse to move on one track in both directions, on straight and curved lines.
Mistakes:
- horse is on two tracks
- horse is stiff on one lead, horse does not bend on curved lines (quarters escape)
- horse does not bend in lateral work

6. COLLECTION
The aim of collection is to develop and improve the balance of the horse.
A collected horse transfers more and more the pushing power of his hindquarters into carrying power, thus becoming able to lower and engage his hindlegs and gain lightness and mobility of the forehand. For a correct collection, all preceding criteria of the 'Scale of Training' must be fulfilled.
- the horse is higher in front, the poll is the highest point of an arched neck.
- the elastic bend of the joints enables the hind legs to work more and more under the horse's body.
- the successfully developed carrying power of the hindlegs enables the horse to show the requested self carriage, which consequently leads to more lightness of the forehand.
- the highest degree of collection is needed in piaffe, passage and canter pirouettes.

Mistakes:
- hindlegs don't carry - lack of self-carriage
- stiff hind legs, not moving under the horse's centre of gravity
- croup remains high, downhill tendency
- neck is long and flat instead of being raised and arched
- steps and strides are not elevated but short and stiff
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